The German diet isn’t famous for being heavy on vegetables. There is one vegetable, however, that Germans go nuts over: asparagus, Spargel. Not just any asparagus, either. In the US, we prefer thin, green asparagus, but in Germany, you need the fat white kind. April to June is Spargel time in Germany. Booths pop up in parking lots to sell asparagus, strawberries and young potatoes. Restaurants have special asparagus dishes on the menu (sometimes there is even a special asparagus menu). My personal favorite part of asparagus season, Spargelzeit, is the Spargelessen. The Spargelessen is the springtime version of the Grünkohlessen from the winter. It is essentially a reason to come together with people and celebrate seasonal vegetables. God, I love this country.
I love asparagus. No, I love, love, LOVE asparagus. I was once party to an asparagus garden theft, a la Peter Rabbit. OK, I actually looked on nervously while my friend removed a single stalk of asparagus from a neighbor’s garden. Yet another failed attempt at bad-assery. Sigh. Another friend of mine told me that her sister and brother-in-law own an asparagus and strawberry farm and rendered me speechless with the information. I had never even considered the fact that you could raise two of my favorite things in one place. If that farm also had cows that produced Maker’s Mark, my head would explode from sheer, unbridled bliss.
But I digress.
So, I love asparagus, but I also love eating with people I like. I have been so fortunate this year to have had the chance to eat many asparagus-based meals with some lovely individuals: the couple I rent from, my friend and fellow ETA, Carolyn, the faculty Spargelessen, lunch with friends, and an afternoon of Spargel and films in my apartment. (Sidenote for German film &/or history enthusiasts: Check out Bang, Boom, Bang and Schtonk!. Excellent.) The typical German Spargel meal consists of boiled white asparagus, boiled spring potatoes, ham and hollandaise sauce or butter. If you are in a restaurant, there is almost always cream of asparagus soup that is so delicious I could cry. In addition to the delightful meals with friends I have also cooked a Spargel meal for myself. I had a whole Friday to myself, I love asparagus and I have always wanted to try my hand at making a real sauce hollandaise. Also, I didn’t have to share.
In Damme, you don’t buy your asparagus at the store or at a booth. Instead, you go to 3er Spargel. 3er Spargel is a family-owned and operated organic asparagus farm in Damme. They put up the little, green, arrow-shaped signs all over town to lead you to their garage, where they sell their wares. Mrs. Dreyer was kind enough to give Carolyn and me a tour of their operation after we took some photos of the sales area. I think she thought we were reporters or health inspectors. Once she found out that we were just your average, German-speaking, American vegetable enthusiasts, she didn’t mind at all. She took us behind the curtains, showed us where they wash and peel the asparagus. It was so cool! Vielen Dank Frau Dreyer!
Also, the answer to the question you’re probably dying to ask about white asparagus is yes.
- 3er Spargel: family-owned and operated organic asparagus farm
- Spargeltreff: (direct translation: asparagus meet-up) A website that is literally dedicated to locating the nearest Spargel farm. I told you this was serious.
- Spargelessen Oldenburger-Münsterland: If you want to find a restaurant in the Oldenburger-Münsterland (where Damme is) with special asparagus dishes, here is a list.
- Medicus: Cafe in Damme with a really nice cream of asparagus soup
- Restaurant Lübke/Hubertushof: Damme restaurant that hosted our faculty Spargelessen.
- Hotel und Restaurant Hannes Ossenkopp: really lovely restaurant near the Dümmer with a wonderful asparagus menu
Normally I don’t photograph my food. That said, here are some photos of food. Lecker!